A MILITARY commander in Western Mindanao (Region IX, now Zamboanga Peninsula) yesterday guaranteed there will be no repeat of the so-called Marawi City siege with the impending end of the martial law in the entire Mindanao on December 31.
“No more. Marawi will never happen again,” said Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the Zamboanga City-based AFP Western Mindanao Command which includes Marawi City under its areas of responsibility.
Sobejana was referring to the occupation of several barangays in Marawi City by the Maute terror group on May 23, 2017, which prompted President Duterte to declare martial law in the entire Mindanao.
The conflict resulted in death of about a thousand terrorists, 168 soldiers and policemen, and 47 civilians. It also devastated the city which is still undergoing reconstruction.
Sobejana expressed confidence no terrorist group, including the Abu Sayyaf, would be able to launch a large-scale attack like that in Marawi City.
“The terrorist groups in our country have been reduced significantly. They are on the run,” he said referring to remnants of the Maute Group, Abu Sayyaf, and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.
Sobejana said the military will continue with operations against the terrorist groups even if martial law is no longer in effect.
“We will sustain it and as much as possible, we will confine this terrorist problem … here in Western Mindanao,” he said.
“Our security posture will remain the same and the security operations, focused military operations that we are conducting against the various threat groups here in the area of responsibility of the Western Mindanao Command will continue,” said Sobejana.
Sobejana said the military will declare a “red alert” in certain areas in Mindanao if needed, once martial law is no longer in effect.
Sobejana asked the public to continue supporting the military in efforts to rid Mindanao of the terrorist problem, particularly by reporting the presence of suspicious individuals in their communities.
A few months ago, President Duterte ordered the military to hasten the defeat of the Abu Sayyaf whose members are mostly based in Sulu. Recent military estimates placed the Abu Sayyaf’s strength at 300 to 400 men.
“We have a target set by the President to significantly reduce the strength of the Abu Sayyaf by December 31. We have 15 days remaining, that’s why I am here in Sulu to closely supervise our operations,” said Sobejana.